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California Negligence Laws

Negligence is an act (or failure to act) when you owe a duty to another individual. For instance, a customer who falls and breaks their arm after slipping on a spill that was not promptly cleaned up may have a negligence claim against the shopkeeper. Negligence definitions are not that different from one state to the next, although the degree to which negligence is shared (when both parties are partially at fault) varies. California negligence laws follow the legal doctrine of "comparative negligence," which allows a plaintiff to sue for the percentage of damages attributable to the defendant.

In California, as in other states, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate the following elements in order to prove negligence on the part of the defendant:

  1. The defendant had a duty (to either commit an act or refrain from committing an act)
  2. The defendant breached this duty (was "negligent" in his or her duty)
  3. The defendant's breach of duty caused the plaintiff's injury(ies)
  4. The defendant's actions were the proximate cause of the injuries (in other words, the defendant should have foreseen the dangers of his or her action or inaction)
  5. The plaintiff suffered actual damages (such as the cost of rehab, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.)

California Negligence Laws at a Glance

Below are the basics of California negligence laws. See Negligence: Background for more general information.

Code Section California Civil Code Section 1714
Statutory Definition of Liability for Negligent Acts
Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his
or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by
his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully
or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or
Comparative Negligence "Pure" form adopted by Li v. Yellow Cab Co., 532 P.2d 1226 (1975).
Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery -
Contribution Among Tortfeasors Yes; (Civ.§1431.2) liability of each defendant per non-economic damages shall be several only and not joint.
Uniform Act No

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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Learn More About California Negligence Laws from a Local Attorney

If you've been injured in California and are unsure of whether you're entitled to compensation, it's best to speak with a skilled personal injury attorney in California who understands the state's rules on contributory negligence.

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